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BRAIN RETRAINING

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BRAIN RETRAINING

By October 12, 2022October 17th, 2022No Comments

There are many misconceptions I have seen about neural retraining, but for the purposes of this blog I have decided to address only two.  The programs to help change the brain do not come with much help unless one hires a coach and even then please understand suggestions and advice are based on experience of the coach, not necessarily truth. The truth is mainstream science has IGNORED chronic illness and  how one can change it by changing their brain. I may be wrong in this, and if I am I would love to know. There are plenty of studies showing how a positive outlook and practices such as gratitude, and compassion leads to many physical and mental benefits, but I am unaware of any studies showing how a structured program based on neuroplasticity principles has led to recovery from chronic illnesses.  Likewise, there is little guidance on the nuances of brain retraining and what to expect. When I was retraining, I felt like I was part of a secret, underground group of groundbreakers who were leading the way to new paradigm in medicine and I still feel this way.  As part of this secret society of self healers, I will share the truth about some misconceptions and it is solely based on my experience and some research I have done.

MISCONCEPTION 1: BRAIN RETRAINING WILL PROVE MY DOCTORS RIGHT,  THESE ILLNESSES ARE “ALL IN MY HEAD.”

Brain retraining for recovery from chronic states must mean that these illnesses are just imagined, or as doctors say , “All in your head.”  This is untrue and not at all what brain retraining implies.  I was sick, just like you may be.  It began in childhood with symptoms of frequent urination and weakness. I had developed UTI’s as well as anemia. Studies such as this, have shown that stress can cause a decrease in serum iron.  Stress also leads to a frequency in urination due to hormone disruption and a lowering of immune function   and an infection can begin. As I got older, symptoms increased and at times decreased.  PMDD, which is linked to stress and trauma, began when I was getting my period and led to terrible feelings of hopelessness, and despair as well as swelling and fatigue and other very physical symptoms. You can read more about PMDD here. It has also been linked to inflammation, In my twenties, I began reacting to food and was not aware. I remember clearly being at a restaurant with my family and eating something that led to my heart racing, crying, inability to breathe, having to urinate, and a feeling of doom as described with mast cell activation syndrome.  “Cytokines, chemokines, leukotrienes, and histamine may lead to neurological symptoms including headaches, fatigue, sense of impending doom, and confusion .”

Later, I developed sensitivity to mycotoxins, (CIRS) chemicals and even EMF (though this was not as severe), and other diagnosis I speak about throughout this blog.  So, I want to be clear, the illnesses are not imagined, or just “in your head” as doctors say.  There is something very real and physical occurring, (even if you are suffering from mental illness and not physical symptoms.) just like in diagnoses more widely accepted like anemia , they are linked to stress and a dysregulated  nervous system. Many patients who have illnesses such as chronic lyme, CIRS, MCS, POTS etc already have other  “psychiatric diagnosis”  such as anxiety and depression and the physical illness has evolved as well and can exacerbate the original psychiatric issue due to the release of cytokines.  The body and brain are starting from less than resilient to these chronic exposures to the external stimuli such as lyme, mold , chemicals etc, and therefore cannot handle it, and gets stuck in this sickness pathway.

I was always over sensitive and had underlying depression and anxiety. Why? A fetus can be affected by a mother’s anxiety as I discuss here. I left my mother’s’ womb already fearful and this continued throughout my childhood.  Two weeks before my period became suicidal and hopeless.  Also, when cytokines were released during a reaction to the stimuli I was sensitive to, I became panicked and in despair. Due to the overlap in symptoms with my underlying depression and anxiety, the exacerbation of symptoms due to what I was eating or environments was not recognized.

Many may not have this, but all who got ill have been stressed and/ro traumatized in some way (like most humans).  And all, are physically ill due to a developmental and or shock trauma/stressor, causing very real physical dysregulation due to activation of  the hpa axis and disruption of normal immune function. In other words, you are not imagining your symptoms and that is not what brain retraining implies. Brain retraining is a way to calm the overactivation of the amygdala and stop the distress signal to the hypothalamus leading to the inflammatory response causing symptoms.  The goal of retraining is to become more resilient so that the body and brain can easily handle external stimuli that most can such as lyme, mold, chemicals etc.

The truth that hardly any doctor speaks about or teaches their patient about is that stress is the underlying cause and/or linked in some way to most illness. Research shows that almost every system in the body can be influenced by chronic stress. When chronic stress goes unreleased, it suppresses the body’s immune system and ultimately manifests as illness.  Therefore, it is not just your  chronic stress  that is triggering symptoms, but as people who have gone through illnesses that are not helped by allopathic have had to find another way to be well and luckily were led to retraining.  Can you imagine a heart doctor telling their patients to find a way to decrease the stress response in order to help heal?  One of my diagnosis involved my heart- tachycardia and mitral valve prolapse.  No one told me this was “in my head”, as they could see the results from testing. The symptoms they could not see from the results of a test are the ones that were left as “psychosomatic.”  So, it is not the actual symptoms that are imagined but doctors lack of training and understanding of them that fails people. And while the illnesses may have originated as a result of stress and the limbic response to it, they are  real physical issues and can be quite severe.  Please remember this and give yourself compassion for all you have been facing.

MISCONCEPTION #2 –  BRAIN RETRAINING WILL LEAD TO RECOVERY QUICKLY.

I receive messages from people asking how to stop “symptom x”, a lot, and why hasn’t “symptom x” stopped yet.  I ask them how long they have been retraining and the response has always been either just a short time or they gave up and they are no longer retraining.  I also read many posts from people saying they “did” the program and it “didn’t work.”  When I hear the words “did the program”, it becomes evident as to why.The connotation of did the program is that the person may have 1.watched the videos and not understood that the programs is a practice to be done daily or 2. the person gave the practice a 6 month try as DNRS asks for and then stopped claiming “it doesn’t work.” Brain retraining is more than a 6 month program and it is more than something you DO each day.  It is a commitment to changing behaviors and thinking patterns that led to being unwell. It doesn’t necessarily have an end date, as living in a mindful way should continue.  Also, it becomes a lifestyle, rather than just a practice. I think this is why DNRS began the “Living DNRS ” program. The need to show that these skill of “being” rather than “doing” must be taken into daily life was there.

I can only assume that the reason DNRS states to give the practice 6 months is to hope people begin seeing some shifts, to help them commit and not be forced to continue. And as a result, I have seen people give up entirely after 6 months because they were not fully recovered. Recovery takes time and in my retraining, after 6 months I saw shifts in emotions mostly. I was smiling more and felt more connected to the present, but in no way was I recovered. It takes a long time to stop what the brain has learned and the practices are cumulative. People who are ill,  in the chronic world have been stressed mentally and physically for some time or have had a pretty significant shock trauma before they find retraining.  And ,lowering the stress level is very difficult and takes time and persistence. It also takes changing behavior patterns and a way of thinking about the illness and life. For example, if one does the brain retraining practice but still continues to overwork, they may find they are more equipped to engaging in long hours and hard work, but eventually fight or flight can get activated.

The lifestyle you will lead when healing,  will include balanced emotions that bring about action such as compassion and forgiveness. You cannot retrain using these practices and avoid any behavioral and lifestyle changes. The time to forgive others and yourself  will come, as well as the need to possibly let go of some people. The time to change the way you interact daily with life whether it be in terms of  work, friendships, intimate partners, family will also present itself. This is not something that any retraining practice will show you how to navigate. It is personal. You may find yourself constantly shifting from liminal states to action, and brain retraining programs will help with the foundational emotions needed to step forth into change. But, they cannot do the action for you.  For example, when retraining you may find yourself in the same dysfunctional work relationships. Retraining can help with emotions and resiliency needed to handle such relationships, or make a conscious decision to leave. It can be the foundation from which you spring forward, but it cannot bring you there.

In other words, you will not be cured because you watched the videos teaching you how to do the program, nor will relief come quickly. There are cases I have heard of that do recover from a weekend seminar teaching DNRS (the brain retraining program I used), and I do speak about this later in this article, but just from my own observations recovery takes longer and varies from person to person. This is a cumulative practice that is targeting the limbic portion of the brain to interrupt the messages of danger it is sending out and reframe it. You will find that when you first begin to practice you may see no relief at first.  Over time, and practice, you will see some small changes but this takes a level of awareness as the shifts may be very small and mostly emotional. The shifts build on each other and make for longer shifts into presence and positive emotions. I also continue to retrain, and finding center in some way every day. It is three years after I first began, and I continue to see the value in focusing my mind to the present. We are humans and get caught up in various stories throughout our day, and coming to presence can lead to continued good health as well as a harmony with life.

For the sake of time and clarity I will use another blog to talk about other misconceptions there are.  To add to misconception number two, I have heard of stories that people recover fairly quickly from physical illness, and of course this can happen. There are many factors that contribute to different healing times, from how resilient one was at birth, the level of dysregulation when one gets ill  to how one implements what the body needs to heal.  Also, there absolutely is a possibility of healing quickly, and there have been reported cases of such. Keep this possibility open. It makes sense that once someone steps into the awareness of what is occurring inside , a relief and clarity can come, and  the “limbic loop” can be switched off (brain being stuck in a threat  state).  This is all dependent on the person and how their body reacts to the awareness they are gaining. 

I write only from my own experiences and observations.  A new habit  was thought to take about 66 days to create,  according to Dr. Phillippa Lally. You can read more about that here. And each time this habit is used it strengthens the neural pathway.  I want to also make sure I clarify that yes, it is possible to heal within 6 months, new neural pathways take about 21 days to form, but the longer they are used the more they are strengthened. So. it can take 21 days to change a behavior, emotion and/or thought, leading to stress, but stregnthening it it by using the new neural pathway can take more time.  Lots of us, need more time to understand what the toxic behaviors are and where they came from , to process them and to change them.  

So, yes people do heal on different schedules, but beginning a program and comparing one’s own path to others also may itself be damaging, leading to frustration and more stress. It is also a behavior that you may want to explore as an old strategy that no longer needs to be used.  Focusing on yourself as an explorer and hero of your own story,  is much more effective. Use this as a beginning point for self compassion.

Somewhere, you learned that others knew more than you, as well as were doing things “better”.  Begin to listen to what YOUR body and mind needs to interrupt this pathway of comparison and reframe it with the words, I am the hero of MY story, and all I need is inside of ME.

I do hope this information helps you and I will be writing  a part two.

Stefanie